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Bowers & Wilkins Panorama Soundbar - B&W Panorama
In terms of scale and speed, the unit's handling of the Mines of Moria sequence is a revelation. Atmospheric echoes create an impressive sense of space and width, and when the Cave Troll bursts into the chamber its clanking chains and blood-curdling roar are suitably bracing but never harsh. The Panorama injects a real sense of drama into the scene that you simply wouldn't get through TV speakers.
Sparkling high frequency response coaxes out plenty of detail and lends a crisp edge to the effects. Panorama's dedicated centre channel also does a terrific job with dialogue - Galadriel's voice is breathy and ethereal, while Gimli's is convincingly gruff. The system also gets nice and loud without even batting an eyelid.
B&W strived to make the Panorama as good with music as it is with movies and its efforts have paid off. Love and War by Daniel Merriweather on CD is a real treat, lending neck-snapping urgency to the hip-hop beats of Change, as well as reproducing bass notes with expert agility and digging up plenty of detail.
Forgive us for going all Sybil Fawlty and stating the bleedin' obvious, but this is an expensive soundbar - you could get yourself a pretty good 5.1-channel speaker system for the same sort of money, or a rival soundbar for a fraction of the price.
In order to justify it, Panorama needed to knock it out the park in terms of sound quality, and thankfully it does just that - for the most part, anyway. We've never heard a soundbar that musters this much bass, which means you don't need to add a sub, plus the rest of the sound is polished and engaging. Only the unconvincing surround performance lets the side down sonically - Marantz's ES7001 is much better on that score.
But the biggest disappointment is the lack of HDMI inputs and HD audio decoding, which we would have expected at this price - particularly as typical B&W buyers are likely to have Blu-ray players anyway. It's is a surprising oversight from a company normally at the cutting edge of audio technology.
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